Maybe we should try to learn about the issues a CEO or VP faces and try to use design to help them solve their problems? Maybe we should try to figure out what keeps them up at night and help them solve their problems — instead of ours.
Designers shouldn’t code. They should study business.
Joshua Taylor

I believe what you are saying here, is getting to more of the key issue or root of the actual problem. As a “UX designer” or “human centered design” or whatever term you’d like to use to describe the role, I believe it gets down to one real aspect. Empathy. We (as designers) should have empathy for the humans using the “things” and for the “business” providing the “things.”

So sure, I suppose I agree with you, that we should at least have some degree of understanding of “business.” Do we need a degree in business? No.

Understanding the Real Problem

What you seem to be describing here, sounds more an aspect of taking the time to truly understand the “problem” that is being “solved” and truly understanding the business needs and accounting for that when solving the problem through design.

So, I do agree with you, that I find that there is a problem with that in many designers. Far too often designers jump to the solution and beyond that they jump to the execution or the “craft” of the solution. They too often forget to ask “why” enough times to get to the actual root of the problem that needs to be solved.

At the same time, I believe that the business also rushes to solve problems before taking the time to truly understand the root of the problem as well. There are too many businesses that go to designers with solutions and when the designers push back to understand the problem better to ensure they are coming up with the right solution they are met with a great deal of opposition.

We Are All Accountable

Though, what you are saying applies to both ends (the business leaders as well as the designers). The CEO’s and VP’s need to have some degree of understanding of the role and value of design just as much as designers need to understand and value the role of the business leaders.

The Solution

The companies you named (like Airbnb, Pocket, Facebook, Google, and Slack), I believe are the companies where both sides have come to trust, value, and understand eachothers roles. They allow design to have a seat at the “table” where the real business decisions are being made. Most companies have the “directors of design” not at a “chief seat” level. Instead design is burried under multiple levels of management, where their voice and value is muffled and supressed.

Any great team that is successful, is successful because each player sticks to their roles and trusts and values and has empathy for all the other roles of the team. They understand that the fist is stronger and more powerful than the open hand.